Now that 8 million or more have signed up on health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the President is deploying his phone and his pen to solve another urgent problem: climate change. This will require another transformational change that no previous President has been able to bring about, as they were unable to get around a recalcitrant Congress.
This problem is related to our health also. As some public health authorities have declared, global warming (now called “climate change”) will bring dengue fever, malaria, and other mosquito and tick-borne diseases across our borders.
We do of course already have mosquitoes here. In Tucson, we also have lots of kissing bugs and packrats, the intermediate host for Chagas disease. We are not yet reporting transmission of Chagas within the U.S., though we are screening blood donors. And bedbugs and head lice, once uncommon, are becoming rampant everywhere.
We are no longer screening most entrants to the U.S., like we once did at Ellis Island, to keep human carriers of infectious diseases out.
We used to have malaria in Alaska and Siberia, but it was mostly eradicated in the U.S. and Europe by mosquito control. That is, by DDT. In living memory, trucks used to go down the streets of Houston spraying DDT. And Mexican migrant workers were dusted with DDT when they crossed the Rio Grande. Half a billion human lives were saved by DDT—a remarkably safe compound. J. Gordon Edwards used to eat it by the tablespoon at his lectures.
Fortunately, the malaria problem was mostly solved here before William Ruckelshaus, head of Nixon’s Environmental Protection Agency, took it upon himself to ban DDT in 1974—despite a truckload of scientific evidence refuting Rachel Carson’s Silent Springalarmism.
That’s where the EPA got its power, which has increased by leaps and bounds.
Malaria kills African babies by the millions, and international authorities work to prevent even indoor household spraying of DDT, far and away the best method we have. While the EPA and international health bureaucrats are mostly white guys, this is not racist or genocidal—unlike use of the “N” word now or in the remote past. It is good for population control, which is a high-priority public health goal, and reduces the potential “carbon footprint.”
Obama will use—is using—the massive power of the EPA to fight climate change. Besides dengue fever, he intends to decrease asthma attacks by reducing pollution and seasonal allergies by preventing higher temperatures (with more plant growth producing more pollen).
Although the predicted global warming has been stalled for about 16 years, and we had an exceptionally harsh winter, the warming (or “change,” which could even include “colding”) is in the “pipeline” (not the Keystone Pipeline). All the government-approved scientists say so, and any who rely on government grants dare not dispute them.
The Great Thermostat has been shown to be carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases—specifically those released in human activities such as burning hydrocarbon fuels, as opposed to volcanic eruptions or outgassing from the oceans. Giving the EPA the authority to regulate carbon dioxide as a “pollutant” gives it the power to control virtually everything.
Of course we can’t actually “decarbonize” everything because all living things are made out of organic (carbon-based) chemicals. But we can greatly suppress human-caused emissions. The first target is the coal industry. Obama’s promise to kill the coal industry, particularly coal-fired power plants, is one he is on track to keep. Oil and natural gas are next—restrictions on diesel-fueled trucks, stopping the Pipeline, denying drilling permits even in defiance of court orders, trying to kill fracking, and so on.
The actual effect on global temperature would be negligible even if we could shut down the 40 percent of our electrical generating capacity that depends on coal. But it would be a “good start.”
The public has become unenthusiastic, but Obama is cranking up the sales efforts that work so well for Obamacare. Electricity bills may skyrocket, but think of all the jobs we could have by replacing backhoes with shovels.
More exercise, less meat, fewer calories altogether. Yes, the fight against climate change is good for our health.
Jane M. Orient, M.D., Executive Director of Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, has been in solo practice of general internal medicine since 1981 and is a clinical lecturer in medicine at the University Of Arizona College Of Medicine.